WORKS: Guitar Concerto No. 5 (Helsinki)
PERFORMER: Timo Korhonen (guitar); Tampere PO/Tuomas Ollila
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 979-2
Leo Brouwer is a purveyor of Cuban-style minimalism, or nueva simplicidad (new simplicity). When it comes to orchestration, his simplicity might be more properly termed basic or primitive: a wash of unison strings and confirmatory blasts of brass overlaying percussive toings and froings on the guitar. It’s a style which skates perilously close to the borders of kitsch, but in this Concerto just about avoids crossing the frontier. Not so Brouwer’s Beatles arrangements. It’s not that the Beatles are sacrosanct. In fact the opposite: Brouwer is too reverential. If one attempts something close to what the Beatles did, it will always be found that they did it better themselves. Brouwer makes very little alteration to the original tunes and divides arrangements around the orchestra in a rather obvious manner. The results would not disgrace any hotel lobby or supermarket aisle. The Albéniz arrangements are only marginally better, serving more than anything to underline Albéniz’s achievement in drawing from one instrument a greater expressive range than Brouwer does from an entire orchestra. The music is all played with buoyant enthusiasm and skill by orchestra and soloist, which makes it worse somehow.